Mental health for students far from home: There’s no place like home


There was no one to tell Ralph to take his feet off the table and no one to ask if he had completed his homework. Ralph was free, finally on his own at college, able to dictate and choose whatever he desired. There was also a lot more space and an eerie silence, with no family game nights or having a decent cooked meal on the table. Ralph had to admit that he was missing home more than he thought he would.

What is homesickness?

The answer is not complicated as being homesick is the feeling of missing home when one is far away. For whatever the reason from school to a summer camp, people can get homesick from time to time. As explains, “Homesickness isn’t only for kids: Practically everyone feels homesick from time to time, even adults.” The key is learning what triggers feeling homesick and how to handle it.

As teenagers grow up and travel to boarding school or college, a similar bitter sweet feeling to that of Ralph’s in the first paragraph may occur. Especially in the transition to college, one goes from a comfortable space at home into a new environment with strangers. “A new place feels unfamiliar at first, and you’re not sure what to expect,” adds. Over time, the feelings of homesickness may dissipate, but it may not be as easy for others. Conquering homesickness does not mean letting go of home, rather finding that what one invests in a home is what one will get out of it. College is one form of a person’s new home.

You don’t need ruby-red slippers

Homesickness is a normal part of the college experience and can go away with time. It is important that a teenager leaves the nest during college to learn how to live without parental care 24/7. The Counseling and Testing Center at the University of Oregon offers advice for dealing with homesickness. The counseling center describes that feelings of homesickness, “Should be acknowledged and accepted, even when uncomfortable,” adding that, “Lonely feelings can tell you to recognize certain needs and to figure out constructive ways to satisfy them.”

A few ideas and methods to help students deal with homesickness that the counseling center offers include:

  • Spending time with people and making new friends
  • Eating meals with others or going to the movies with friends
  • Look into joining a student organization or club on campus
  • Utilize dorm and university activities to meet new people

The counseling center also stresses that one can learn to spend time alone with a positive view. Through physical exercise or reading a book, there are activities besides studying which can help students avoid thinking of home.

While it is not un-common to return home and visit family throughout the year, a student should not do it frequently. College is a time of self-exploration and to learn how to make a home away from home. White River Academy is a boarding school for troubled boys from ages 12 to 17, struggling with issues at school and interpersonal problems. The academy provides treatment and care for the boys through disciplined guidance, continues a strong education program and instills character values with service projects promoting positive growth. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

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